The day is almost here. The day when high school students all across the state of Georgia lace up their cleats, put on their pads and don their helmets.
Come Friday, football is here.
“There’s a lot of excitement and we’re fired up,” South Effingham fullback Gage Marks said. “We’re kind of tired of hitting on each other. It gets us more excited when we get to hit somebody else.”
The South Effingham Mustangs open the 2007 campaign at 7:30 p.m. Friday night against Groves at The Corral.
“We’ve been working on getting better, especially on our fundamentals,” SEHS coach Greg Manior said. “The first week of the season, we are going to work on the fundamentals. We got to put people in the right place at the right time, get in better condition and run our base plays.”
Groves, which finished 7-4 last season and lost in the first round of the state playoffs, is in a rebuilding year. The Fightin’ Scottish Rebels return only six starters and have a new coach in Richard Redding, who succeeds Karl DeMasi.
Despite all the changes at Groves, one thing that hasn’t changed is the team is full of athletes.
“They have athletes,” Manior said. “I saw kids who can run up and down the field, make big plays and get high on emotion. Emotion can build a team up to where they feel they can beat anybody.”
To guard against the potential big plays and counter the Rebels’ athleticism, Manior said his team must be fundamentally sound.
“We’ve seen athletes. Our guys are used to seeing athletes,” he said. “When we go against teams who have a lot of athletes we just have to make adjustments on our coaching staff and get our kids in the right place so they’ll be ready to go. It’s just a matter of executing.”
Don’t expect anything fancy, Manior said his Mustangs will stick to the basics.
“Defensively, we are just going to run our base defense (4-4 formation) and see if we can stop them,” he said.
“Offensively, we are just going to try to run right at them. No trickery, just line up with them and see if they can stop us.”
Like South Effingham, Groves’ offense primarily operates out of the Wing-T.
However in the Rebels’ scrimmage against Effingham County last Friday, they showed they could pass the ball, too.
“They got a quarterback (Cameron Tillman) who can drop back and sling it down the field,” Manior said. “We got to be ready for anything.”
Last season, Groves stole one from South Effingham, winning 14-10.
The Mustangs led 10-7 with 16 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter when disaster struck. A Mustangs blocker backed into punter Conner Carmack, allowing the Rebels to block the punt and later throw a touchdown to win.
Senior defensive end Cody Miller, like the rest of his teammates, is ready for revenge.
“We definitely want to avenge it,” he said. “It hurt real bad when they beat us. I don’t know how we let them beat us last year. We’ve really been concentrating on special teams and that’s what was weak last year and we need to make sure mistakes like that don’t happen again.”
The players and coaches aren’t the only ones itching for the season to start. South Effingham High School football booster club president Mark Carmack said he and the Mustang fans are ready.
“We have some faithful that are there all during the summer to watch them practice and we are extremely ecstatic over the new football season,” he said. “Everyone is gearing up and ready to go. Everyone has been ready to go since last season.”